16 April 2017

Playing it cool

I read back to back short stories about murder after finishing the playlist style novel, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. (It occurs to me that this is my second "dark double feature" on my Last Fives in recent weeks). The stories both approach the crime quite matter of factly, but the perpatrators in each story could not be more different in their respective approaches. I suppose it comes down to their relationship to the crime itself in some ways.

In "Lamb to the Slaughter", the 6-months-pregnant wife has just been told - something - by her husband. At best or worst she is told by her husband that he wants a divorce or that there is someone else for whom he is leaving her.  It's hard to say which of those is best or worse, "I'm leaving you because there's someone else" versus "I'm leaving you because you".

"Tell-Tale Heart" on the other hand features a murder which is incited by the gaze or perhaps just the eye of an old man and its effect on a madman. The murderer even refuses to kill the man he has decided to end for an entire week because the old man doesn't open his offending eye until the 8th night. 

If I had to summarize the theme of this particular double feature it would be to say that the stories are about guilt.  Poe's narrator clearly suffers the guilt of his crime, whereas the husband in Dahl's story could be said to 'suffer the guilt of his own crime', at the hands of his soon-to-be abandoned wife.   

*  *  *          

...(picking up the thread, some time later)

Twain's 'most likely to be assigned to a 5th Grade Reading class' of a short story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is well worth the sitting, if you've not read it before.  It's a story about a foolish showman getting his comeuppance.  And the Fikry chapter that shares the Twain story's title is much the same.  Although not so public, the clown of this chapter also gets outed.

The whole novel works to rhyme the themes of each

No comments: